In 2019, Pernod Ricard entered a partnership with Boiler Room, the most influential brand in music-oriented youth culture with a global live stream and event platform. Together with several other brands across the portfolio, the ambition has been to create a unique festival concept that excites consumers within the evolving nightlife scene. We chatted with Anna Kohlin, Global Brand Manager in the Brand Creative team at The Absolut Company, to hear more about Absolut’s partnership with Boiler Room, the upcoming festival in Amsterdam, and how this project can serve as a platform for a new generation of DJ:s and VJ:s.
Why did Pernod Ricard initiate a partnership with Boiler Room?
There was a great opportunity for our portfolio of brands to come together to bring value to consumers through distinctive brand concepts and storytelling within this hybrid-festival and events space. For Absolut specifically, we were eager to work with Boiler Room to deliver creative and innovative program to this highly influential consumer group. That’s why we joined the Boiler Room X platform and shaped how it shows up with Absolut, where we can truly live our values and purpose to strive for a more open world. It’s a concept where we work with diverse communities worldwide to create unique experiences by highlighting both DJs and visual artists.
Is the DJ and VJ scene too stereotypical?
Women, queer and people of color are primarily underrepresented in the club and festival scene. We want to change that and build a platform where more artists can show their true talents, something that Boiler Room has always done. Our concept includes working with DJs and VJs, as we see the combination of both artistic expressions as an important part of the culture. For example, we have collaborated with queer community Speilraum in Amsterdam that has curated our Boiler Room X stage with some amazing talent this weekend at the Boiler Room Festival.
What can the audience expect from the upcoming Boiler Room Festival in Amsterdam?
The sold out festival runs over three days from Nov 24-26th, at an exciting new venue with over 12,000 people attending. You will experience a wide range of music genres and sub-cultures coming together from the next generation of artists pushing the industry forward. For Absolut, we will have our stage on Saturday with a capacity for 2,500 people. The festival will be live-streamed during the weekend as well as broadcasted post event on Boiler Room’s website and their social media channels.
What’s in store next for the future of the partnership between Boiler Room and Absolut?
Our ambition for the coming year is to expand our impact through Boiler Room and collaborate with more interesting communities and emerging artists. Adding value by bringing local sounds and visual experiences to a global audience. We have four individual Absolut x Boiler Room events planned for 2023, with locations and timings finalized shortly. Stay tuned for what’s in store!
This year, all Absolut Vodka products are labeled with a new marking. The e-label might seem like only a small marking on the bottle, but it holds a great deal of information. We had a talk with Paula Eriksson, VP Corporate Affairs & Communications at The Absolut Company, on the importance of exchanging all the labels on all products in all markets.
What is an e-label?
E-labels are digital shortcuts in the form of a QR-code that we print on all our labels. The purpose of implementing this solution is to give all consumers – in all markets – access to information and drinking guidelines that are locally adapted and in their own language. The pandemic has increased the use of digital solutions, which means that this type of label works well already now, and we’re confident that it’ll still work in 10 years’ time. This is a massive project that we’ve now just started to roll out globally. In the first stage, all products within the EU are being e-labelled and then next markets to follow are big markets like Mexico, Brazil and the US. The last stage is to implement in smaller markets, for example in South America and Southeast Asia. When we are done, the new e-label will be available in all our 140 markets. It is an amazing job that’s been done by our logistics and production departments, who – in the midst of a pandemic and a supply chain crisis – have managed to achieve all this.
How does it work?
It is a simple QR-code that is printed directly on the bottle label. The code can be scanned with your smartphone and it will forward you to the information that applies in your particular country. The app uses geotags, so you’ll be directed to the right market regardless of where in the world you are. All information is available both in the local language and in English.
Why have you decided to implement it?
Today’s consumers have a great deal of knowledge about how, what and why things are produced, and they expect that there is certain information available for them to access. This means that there’s a great need for transparency for both companies and products. The most important information, i.e. energy declaration and responsible drinking logos, are clearly visible directly on the label, but now we are introducing another tool to make it easier for anyone who wants to know more about ingredients, drinking guidelines and health.
When will the e-label be introduced?
It has already started to be rolled out. The first bottles with QR codes went out in Italy and Portugal in August and now we continue with a full roll-out plan throughout the EU. The goal is to have all EU markets completed by 2022 and the rest of the world by the beginning of 2024.
After running the Spritmuseum in Stockholm for 13 years, Ingrid Leffler is officially leaving her post as Museum Director. She has been a key player in hosting several famous and successful exhibitions. We chatted with Ingrid, who shared her most memorable moments in her career and her thoughts about Spritmuseums new exhibition, REDISCOVER Absolut Art Collection.
You’ve worked as Museum Director at Spritmuseum for more than a decade, and now you are leaving your post. How does it make you feel?
It feels good, and I think now is a really good time to hand over the baton. I am grateful and proud of all these years and the fantastic experiences Spritmuseum has given me. But now I am handing over the world’s most enjoyable job to another person, and it feels great. The best thing about being the Museum Director has been the privilege of meetings so many fantastic people and to be fortunate enough to be able to work with and alongside all the great artists, creators, partners, producers and colleagues that have been engaged in the museum and our exhibitions through the years.
What changes has Spritmuseum undergone during your tenure?
Quite a few, for sure. For me, one of the biggest changes was moving the entire museum to our current premises in Royal Djurgården, including establishing an art gallery for the Absolut Art Collection. In my 13 years, we have also increased the number of visitors from 10,000 up to 100,000 annually, which is amazing. Today, we are a museum that – in addition to showing Swedish drinking- and art history – conducts extensive program activities, serve exciting food, and holds events at our own restaurant. Another big change is within the industry itself. When I started as Museum Director at Spritmuseum, there were around 200 beverage producers in the country. Today there are closer to 900, which is a testament to the growth of the entire industry and something we are proud to display at Spritmuseum. We have also been a part of changing how we consume and talk about beverages in Sweden through our drink exhibitions, guest performances, range of drinks and tastings. We even founded a national championship in crafting cider where Swedish producers can compete and show off their best products.
Which exhibition do you remember the most?
I remember most of them quite well, but some have made a more significant impression than others. An unforgettable one is the art exhibition with the painter Frank Bowling, who received renaissance and international recognition through our presentation, which rendered him an extensive show at the famous Tate Modern in London. I also remember when we launched the exhibition Realities, featuring Dan Wolgers and the writer Lena Andersson, which was one of our most well-visited throughout my time. Also, the cultural history exhibition, The Swedish Sin, received fantastic reviews and was one of the most crowded ones, with visitors queuing a long time to get in.
The exhibition REDISCOVER Absolut Art Collection will be your last one. What can you tell us about it?
The whole idea behind the exhibition was to let a younger generation of art connoisseurs select their favorites from our archives. They were just kids when the Absolut Art Collection emerged in the 80s and 90s. The result of their selections is a room with 90 floor-to-ceiling artworks, pastel-colored walls, and disco music blaring through the speakers. All these younger people also work as museum educators and guides at Spritmuseum. I am incredibly impressed with how they have approached the task and managed to create one of Spritmuseums best thematic exhibitions ever. It is creative, playful, innovative – and very stylish.
Finally, what will you do now?
I have some assignments left to complete here at Spritmuseum before I leave my post on February 1st. Other than that, I don’t really have any plans. I will think about what I want to do in the future with my free time and, hopefully, find something meaningful and fulfilling to get excited about.
Bar Convent Berlin, the largest tradeshow in Europe for the bar and beverage industry, started on October 10-12th, 2022, and was attended by exhibitors and visitors worldwide. People from across the industry met to learn more about new trends in the industry and discover exciting new products. We had a chat with Annika Skohg, Brand Manager of Advocacy & Education for The Absolut Company, who shared her insights.
What stood out the most from the Berlin Bar Convent?
First and foremost, the vast space and the high number of people attending. More than 13,000 visited the Berlin Bar Convent. We met importers, bartenders, and industry people, who shared their brands’ stories and the latest bar and drink trends. My biggest takeaway was the exhibitors serving minimalistic cocktails and with innovative techniques.
What are the latest bar trends?
Sherry is the new passion fruit! We surprisingly saw a lot of it at the show as an essential ingredient to many drinks. We even saw tattoo artists offering sherry tattoos. Also, the approach of creating cocktails on the laboratory level is getting more and more at the forefront with the number of clarified drinks displayed in Bar Convent Berlin. Furthermore, many wanted to return to the brand’s roots and highlight their products and beverages in a very raw and minimalistic way. Beyond that, the ready-to-drink trend is still alive, the importance of proper glassware was underscored, and cocktails were served with sustainable materials.
Which type of spirit do you think will be more popular in the future?
Gin was frequently featured among the exhibitors during the event, which is not surprising. It’s a versatile spirit still in high demand that comes in different variants and flavouring.
How has the industry recovered from the pandemic?
During the pandemic, the bar and drinking industry was among the most wrecked. However, the recovery is going in the right direction. But my impression from Berlin Bar Convent is that many people that were working the stand were new to their job and occasionally lacked experienced brand and cocktail knowledge. The pandemic created a general staff shortage in the industry, where many lost their jobs and switched careers. The regrowth will take some time.
How will the bar- and beverage industry meet the upcoming consumer needs?
During the show, we saw a lot of low-ABV products and alcoholic-free options, confirming that as we have seen for a while, consumer today are very conscious about their alcohol intake. They care a lot more about the flavour and experience of the cocktail. Also, we know that Gen Z is a generation that cares a lot about what they consume and what the brands stand for. The quality of the product is not enough. They also want to understand where brands stand from a sustainable point of view, what we do for the environment and where your ingredients originate. Gen Z demands transparent storytelling about the brand’s operations which sets new requirements for the industry in the future.
Absolut Home received the internationally prized honor of Europe’s Leading Vodka Distillery Tour 2022 at the 29th annual World Travel Awards, acknowledging excellence in the travel industry worldwide. We had a chat with Frida Trieb, Sales & Marketing Manager, and Kenneth Hoffström, Site Manager, at Absolut Home, about what makes a great distillery tour, what this award means, and what’s next for the Absolut Brand Home.
Congratulations on being awarded Europe’s Leading Vodka Distillery Tour! In what ways will this award affect and benefit Absolut Home?
It’s a recognition that allows us to reach a much wider and international audience, and it offers us a more impactful narrative when it comes to communicating who we are, says Kenneth.
Tell us about the process of being nominated for the award.
We were nominated at the beginning of this summer but were so busy with our operations that we actually didn’t have the chance to properly spread the word throughout our network. So, it came as a big surprise to us that we won the award! Kenneth admits.
What is the key to a successful distillery tour? What makes the Absolut Home tour stand out?
Our tours have a nice mix of fun interactive elements, information, and a genuine sense of community. Our guides also make the experience personal, engaging, and stimulating. I think it is the combination that makes our tours so wonderful and what sets them apart, says Frida.
Can you share some visitor feedback from your award-winning tours?
Many visitors have told us that the tour has been both professional and exciting and that the guides have excellent knowledge and are able to answer all their questions. In addition, we notice great interactions between our guests and guides. They explore different rooms, have the space to interact, and create a unique time together. At the end of the tours, the visitors are invited to make their own cocktails or alcohol-free drinks, which is usually mentioned as something extra special in the reviews, Frida says.
What does the collaboration between the different Brand Home Destinations within the Pernod Ricard Group look like? In what ways do you share best practices, inspire, and learn from each other?
The entire Pernod Ricard Brand Home community meets regularly to share knowledge and inspiration, which offers a sense of belonging to us since we’re the only Brand Home located in Sweden. We support each other, help one another, and uphold standards and guidelines developed within the group. We share best practices, how to treat our employees respectfully, and agree on benefits such as employee discounts, etc., Kenneth points out.
Are you working with any other tourist attractions in the region?
We collaborate with many hotels and tourist attractions in the region. For example, since we can’t offer accommodations, and the local hotels need to provide experiences to their guests, we are working in collaboration to make visits to Åhus more memorable. It’s a win-win situation, says Kenneth. We started talking to Wanås Castle before the pandemic. They have accommodations and art exhibitions, and we both attract visitors. It would be a great fit to join forces as two interesting destinations in the area.
We are also cooperating with Kristianstad Municipality amongst other local stakeholders to promote the region, Frida says. They encourage visits to Absolut Home, and it is our ambition to make sure everyone has a great time with us.
Have you noticed a change in tourism patterns and/or behaviors post-pandemic?
Yes, we have. The number of visitors is lower now than during the pandemic. The whole industry has slowed down after two years of strong summers. And there are several theories as to why. One reason could be that many Swedes had a desire to travel abroad after restrictions were lifted. Another reason might be that we are facing inflation in society overall. People are more careful with spending, and as a result, they might not travel as much, Kenneth suggests.
Åhus is a summer town, but we are actively working on prolonging the season. During the Holidays, we have a special event where we open our outdoor bar and hold a Christmas fair. Our Christmas lunches and dinners are very popular and are often accompanied by a tour, Frida fills in.
What’s on the horizon for Absolut Home?
We’re currently exploring more tours, events, and exhibitions. In addition, we are planning guest appearances by both bartenders and chefs. We’re also looking into collaborating with the Skåne Regional Museum, which will show the Fashion Cocktail exhibition during spring 2023, previously held at Spritmuseum in Stockholm. Internally we’re making efforts to communicate about our offers in a clear and straightforward way. There are a lot of exciting things happening this year, and our hope and aim are that they will be seen, heard, and received well! Frida says.
Ever since 2005, Absolut Vodka has released a yearly limited-edition designed vodka bottle. Now, the design for the 2022 edition is official. We interviewed Elin Furelid, Global Director Portfolio & Innovation at The Absolut Company, on this year’s limited-edition bottle, which celebrates the Spirit of Togetherness, and talked about the design, inspiration, and work behind it.
What’s the inspiration behind the limited-edition bottle for 2022? Who designed it?
The inspiration draws from Absolut’s core belief of mixing things up with the goal of creating better outcomes. This bottle is specifically designed in collaboration with our design agency, Brand Union Stockholm, and our glassworks partner Ardagh Glass located in the southern part of Sweden. We have worked on many projects with Brand Union Stockholm, from our most recent redesign to previous designs and several exciting limited-edition bottles like this one. The campaign’s visual identity – with its color play on the pattern – was, in fact, developed by our in-house studio, The Mix Stockholm.
The campaign celebrates the Spirit of Togetherness. How is this spirit reflected in the bottle?
Celebrating the Spirit of Togetherness is about how things turn out better when we look past our differences and are able to meet and connect with each other. This concept inspires the actual design of the bottle, symbolized through a woven pattern that is translated onto the surface of the glass. The notion that several intertwined threads are stronger than one individual string shows that we form a stronger bond when we come together and create together. This can also be linked to when the bottle is launched, during the Holiday season, when we traditionally spend time with friends and family, strengthening the bond of togetherness.
The Absolut Company has a longstanding tradition of promoting togetherness and mixing people and perspectives. Tell us how you’ve worked with these values when creating this bottle.
Besides combining and mixing different values, and people to achieve better outcomes, synergy and true cooperation between everyone involved have been crucial to this project. We work closely and value our partners and could never realize a design like this without them and their expertise. The entire collaboration behind this product is part of the concept of togetherness, and that is very important to highlight.
In what way was sustainability factored into this project?
We are constantly working with sustainability, and similarly to the rest of our bottles, the limited-edition bottle for 2022 features 53% recycled glass, which is exceptionally high for a clear glass bottle. For us, sustainability is a deep-rooted and constant priority.
Was there anything that stood out or surprised you while working on this project?
The limited-edition designed bottles are our longest-running campaign, recurring since 2005. Working on this project is always fun and enriching. However, this bottle seemed extra special. It turned out incredibly sophisticated, detailed, and transparent. Even though we used a soft material as an inspiration, we’ve been able to create a clear, smooth, and detailed tactile effect on the solid glass surface. We’ve made crystal-looking bottles before, but this one stands out. I think it’s absolutely stunning.
Besides the great look and feel, the teamwork has been very special to us from a customer’s point of view. We’re very much involved in the entire design process and work closely with our suppliers as partners, which is essential for the end result.
How long does it take to develop the bottle?
We begin planning and preparing about 1.5 to 2 years before the launch. Working with a glass structure requires a battery of tests, for example, on the glass’s durability and quality. We are creating an artisanal product, even if it is on a larger scale. It’s a kind of industrialized glass art that requires a lot of time and effort to perfect. Glass art is part of the Swedish design heritage and something we are very proud to be a part of.
When will the limited-edition bottle launch, and how would you like it to be received?
The bottle is launching on October 1, the same time as previous years, and it will be available in over 80 markets! It is our most extensive and longest-running global campaign. We hope that our consumers find the bottle as fantastic as we do and that they can feel all the work and love that has been put into it.
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the drinks community was finally able to return to New Orleans for a 20-year anniversary celebration of the industry’s leading conference Tales of the Cocktail®. We had a chat with Jakob Sundin, On Trade Specialist at Purfict and co-founder of The Bartenders’ Choice Awards, about how the industry is doing and the biggest cocktail trends at the moment.
You have recently returned from Tales of the Cocktail. What are the five biggest global cocktail trends right now?
Something that’s become prevalent in recent years is drinks being presented in a minimalistic, stylistic way, often with thin and delicate glassware. There’s hardly any garnish – just a large ice cube and perhaps a stroke of paint on the side of the glass. What’s also interesting is that these drinks all look relatively similar, but they certainly don’t taste the same.
The second trend is technique. The approach of creating drinks on a molecular, laboratory level started with just a handful of bars globally that were incorporating such techniques. Nowadays, there’s almost a bar in every major city that has adapted this approach. Bars often use sophisticated methods to clarify and distill ingredients with a rotovap distiller. There’s a lot of fermentation, centrifugation, clarification, and forced carbonation used to create sophisticated artisan cocktails inspired by ready-to-drink beverages.
Then there’s locality. For example, in countries like Sweden, where citrus fruits don’t grow naturally, bars have started to use substitutes like malic acid instead of imported citrus. Facit in Umeå, with Emil Åreng, is the world’s first bar to exclusively use Swedish ingredients and produce. The industry is also working closer to producers. Röda Huset in Stockholm works with their ice supplier, who helps them freeze individual pieces of vårbrodd (sweet vernal grass) for their minimalistic-looking drink kolagräs (cola grass).
Takeovers, or guest appearances, are another strong trend. Pretty much all the bars on the list of The World’s 50 Best Bars visit each other, arrange pop-ups and takeovers for publicity, and associate with premium spirits brands for promotion and vice versa.
Another trend is botanical spirits and brands finding innovative ways to incorporate unique ingredients into their spirits. With a rotovap, you can work at a much lower temperature to extract unique flavors that are lost in traditional distillation. Creative people and innovation have helped push the industry forward. Whether it’s gin, botanical rum, aquavit, or flavored vodkas, one thing is for sure; there is an evolution in the way spirits are made and flavored.
What is your takeaway from Tales of the Cocktail?
It was such a pleasure to connect with so many familiar faces. The pandemic has hit our industry hard, so it was wonderful seeing parts of the industry come together again and being able to travel. Sadly, many iconic bars closed their doors in the past couple of years due to the pandemic. But we had an opportunity to celebrate some of them during the conference, at an event hosted by Pernod Ricard USA.
The conference celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. How is the drinks industry doing?
We’ve been through some extremely challenging times and have made it out on the other side. This is proof that our industry is made up of dedicated people who won’t give up. More initiatives for positive change are being pushed, moving the industry in the right direction, both in terms of evolving the craft and creating a respectful environment. And now that we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and since the industry is built by the most passionate and resilient people – who will never stop believing in what we love the most – I’m confident the industry will emerge in a better place than before.
Betting on the diverse and serene environment of the far north, a surprising career path led to the start of the northernmost distillery in Sweden. We had a chat with Dennis Bejedal, founder and CEO of Norrbottens Destilleri, about finding inspiration off the beaten path and his journey in launching a spirits company out of Norrbotten.
Why did you start Norrbottens Destilleri?
I’ve always wanted to start my own company, and have spent years trying to figure out how to work with taste and flavor in a creative way. A trip from Stockholm to Norrbotten changed everything for me. So much so that I have been living in Norrbotten for eight years now.
You are the northernmost distillery in Sweden. How come you decided to establish your business in Norrbotten?
Traveling the world for several years during my previous career as a professional poker player allowed me to experience many different places around the globe. However, it was after visiting a friend here in Norrbotten that I realized what this region has to offer in terms of its nature and climate. That’s when it all came together, and the journey to encapsulate that in a bottle of spirits began.
Launching a startup out of Norrbotten is exciting. You work incredibly hard – like everyone who starts a business – but at the end of the day, your commute home is always 12 minutes, and you can park at a house by the sea and just drop your shoulders. This is very important to me as an overachiever.
Being new to our industry, what are your reflections? The pros and cons? What are the biggest challenges of starting a spirits company in Sweden today?
An advantage of being new in this industry is that it allows us to be innovative. We are part of such a creative world, and there’s really no limit to what you can distill today. A disadvantage is, of course, the pandemic, making it difficult to get our brand out there. Building distribution out of Norrbotten is already a challenge since we are so far away from everything. But we are noticing a lot of progress. After two years of hard work and tons of meetings – trying to figure out how to operate under conditions where everything is on pause – we hope things will finally start to take off. We have prepared ourselves to make them happen now.
As a professional poker player, your background is slightly different. Is there anything from the poker world you can draw from in your new career?
Some would argue that it takes a real gambler to start a distillery way up in northern Sweden, in the small village of Töre. But, after 13 years as a professional poker player, I’ve learned to recognize opportunities, and I dare to stick with and trust my gut feeling. Another thing that I carry with me is the importance of always wanting to develop, which is super important when you’re playing poker and want to stay on top of your game. I try to live by that and wish to instill that mindset in the people who work here at Norrbottens Destilleri.
What inspires you and why?
I get inspired by flavors and aromas from places locally and worldwide. Finding a unique symbiosis of different botanicals in a balanced product is what makes my work a lot of fun!
We’re seeing many premium distilleries coming out of the Nordics. What’s essential to stand out from the crowd?
The Nordic distilleries hold such a high standard when it comes to white spirits. For me, sticking to our innovative and creative style of distilling spirits is essential. I have never tried to create a product similar to another one already on the market. Instead, I always start with a concept of the flavor in my mind, and from that, I build the recipe in my head. I love highlighting different botanicals from our unique landscapes, creating a fusion of flavors from various parts of the world and an unexpected taste experience.
Speaking of fusion. Your slogan is “A fusion of extremes”. Can you tell us more about how you incorporate that into your brand and products?
“A fusion of extremes” runs through multiple aspects of our brand. It describes the environment where we operate; Norrbotten is an extreme place with an extreme climate. However, we are also doing a fusion of extreme botanicals by letting ingredients from different parts of the world intertwine with our local garden. The concept is constantly evolving together with our brand.
Do you have a favorite fusion?
That’s really hard to say. It’s like choosing a favorite child. I would say that I am most proud of our Forest Dry Gin. It encapsulates the Swedish forest in a bottle, accompanied by cloves from the Comoro Islands in the Indian Ocean. It’s a super cool product, and since Sweden is covered by 70% forest, it is representative of Sweden.
Absolut received Business Sweden’s Food Export Award in 2019 and decided to pay it forward to you and Stockholms Bränneri. Can you tell us what this support means for you going forward?
It was an honor that Absolut and Business Sweden decided to bring us to the Bar Convent Brooklyn in New York. We had a great couple of days. Hopefully, this will help us enter more markets in the future, and on top of that, we made some great connections exploring the convention.
Tips for others who want to make the same journey?
My best advice in 2022 is to dare to do something unique that makes you stand apart, something that’s not already out there. Otherwise, you risk getting lost in a massive market of competing brands. So, definitely make sure you stand out from the competition and be prepared to dedicate yourself to your craft – because it does take a lot of time.
What’s next for Norrbottens Destilleri?
We are currently caught up in a creative phase at Norrbottens Destilleri! Many things will happen by the end of the year, and we can’t wait to show you!
To keep a close watch on half a continent is quite a challenge. But for Tatiana Künsch, Marketing Activation Manager LatAm at The Absolut Company, it’s home turf. We had a chat with her on what makes the brand tic for her consumers – all the way from the banks of the Rio Grande in the north down to shores of Patagonia in the south.
How’s Absolut doing in Latin America?
I’d say it’s doing great as a whole. However, Latin America is a very big and diverse cluster of markets where Brazil only is as large as the whole of EU, so it’s huge. And it’s a very Absolut friendly market where the brand is seen as a premium and cool on the same level as Apple.
Which markets are you responsible for?
All markets in South and Latin America – from Mexico to Uruguay. But my main markets are Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and the Caribbean. Absolut’s image is very similar in all markets. We’re perceived as very premium and progressive and just about every big city in my market is big on Absolut, which kind of makes my job easier.
Are there any big differences?
For sure. In Mexico, they have an affinity for tequila that differs quite a lot from most other markets. Argentina is more European – almost like they were a part of Italy. They drink wine and aperitif. In Brazil, where I’m based, most people drink cachaça, which in general is considered a low tier spirit – even though there are some premium brands. Otherwise, Brazilians love to drink whisky. We actually consume more whisky/capita than the Scotts! But vodka in general and Absolut in particular is very popular in all markets.
Why’s the brand so successful in your part of the world?
I think it’s a combination of product quality, the instant brand recognition due to the iconic bottle, the legacy of the brand and the fact that it is seen as very innovative. Our marketing initiatives are usually very impactful here when we use the global campaigns but tweak them to suit our consumers. We localize assets and use our specific traits. Bruna Marquezine is our main talent here in Brazil. She’s very influential and relevant to Gen Z. All her flights perform very well. I think this approach, to be a global brand and to always have a local approach to our activations, is what makes the magic.
What’s most challenging with your job?
Most complicated is to work in different time zones. With HQs in Sweden, I’ve only small four-hour window to make contact. It’s great to be able to work independently, but it’s also a bit tricky at times. It’s also challenging to be responsible for such a vast and diverse market. We always need to generate insights on consumer behaviors and other things and there are some very noticeable differences between the markets. So, it’s hard work to stay on top of everything that happens when you’ve got so much ground to cover.
Being a sustainable company requires both effort and stamina. But often, a lack of resources and an overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to begin can impose obstacles. That’s where Ethos and Jonathan Milläng, Head of Sustainable Finance, can help. We had a chat with him on how to get sustainability work off the ground and on the agenda.
What kind of sustainability work does Ethos perform?
Basically, we identify where in the value chain a company’s greatest impact is. Today, Ethos provides services within five different areas: Sustainable Business Development, Human Rights & Anti-corruption, Sustainable Finance, Environmental Affairs, and Sustainability Reporting. Our clients often start by analyzing how they can work with sustainability issues, both to reduce their negative impact and maximize the positive – what is called a materiality analysis. Many companies unfortunately focus on the wrong things – for example, IT should not invest energy in ensuring that employees drive electric cars, but rather make sure that all the energy used to store info in the cloud or on company servers comes from a renewable source.
What types of companies ask Ethos for help?
Ethos has customers from all walks of life and we are contacted by companies from very different sectors and industries. Regardless of where the customer comes from, we pretty much have the same MO; step 1 is a risk and impact analysis in which we look at what may be, or already is, critical for the business or fund and step 2 is establishing an action plan for how to maximize/minimize positive/negative impact within the areas of environment and climate change, labor rights, human rights, and anti-corruption as well as the governance of all of these areas based on the nature of the business or assets under management.
What is the most common inquiry for you?
Personally, I’m mostly asked to help our financial clients reach sustainability targets and compliance with new regulations. There are a lot of incoming new legal requirements from the EU on how companies should establish and utilize their influence. The idea is to get away from diluted sustainability reports where you just sort of write that you have a charity initiative, or that you only serve vegetarian food in the mess hall. The EU wants to ensure that companies work on their core business and improve sustainability where it truly matters.
Is sustainability work difficult?
Both yes and no. It becomes easier the more people learn about the issues and get used to working with them in the right way. I think it was harder some years ago when people didn’t think it was as financially material. On the other hand, there’s a lot still to be done on issues concerning social sustainability and human rights. This is still uncharted territory and sadly you’re likely to find slavery and/or child labor in almost every complex value chain you scrutinize. This is due to several reason; the fact that it’s not legally required to work with human rights issues in your full value chain and the fact that neither investors nor customers are clear about the actual requirements and regulations in all markets. This uncertainty makes it difficult to accept and carry the costs of working full-on with human rights issues. But that does by no means mean that there aren’t companies that has this it on their agenda. There are several good examples in every sector and the best one’s are those who’ve already started to report on these specific issues – they’ve identified the problems and are working to solve them. In the last couple of years, we’ve noticed an increase in how much people actually consider sustainability issues from a business perspective. The sustainability strategy must be in line with the business strategy – and not be considered as something you do half-heartedly or as a side business to earn a little goodwill. If you do not understand how you are affected by climate risks, you are more exposed. But if you acknowledge this and take active decisions to be sustainable, you’ll not only do good for the planet but also make a better investment case because you are better prepared than the competition.
What is a green investment?
There is an EU framework, called the EU Taxonomy, which is a classification for green investments. It works in the same way as the Linnaeus’ system for plants and animals. There are several thresholds and requirements that must be met, based on which sector you are active in. The sectors that are in the biggest need of adjustment are pinpointed and the demands on them are increased. When it comes to green funds, for example, they have a large predominance of companies with a low climate impact. But that doesn’t mean that you – as an investor – have an actual impact on sustainability related issues. If you want to really make your money count, it might be better to invest in where the investment will make a bigger difference. This is what the legislators and legislation want to help explain. Because it should be easy to understand where your investment can make the biggest and greenest difference.
Quarterly capitalism is often spoken of as a contrast to more long-term investments. What kind of implications does a transition to a greener investment strategy have, both short- and long-term?
The pandemic and the war in Ukraine may have had the implication that investors are now starting to look at other risks and adapt a more long-term perspective. Being more risk-averse. The EU taxonomy is mostly focused on infrastructure companies – they are essential for society to function, but they also need to change. And you must keep an eye on that when you invest – you can’t just simply throw money at tech start-ups and hope they’ll solve everything. Investments in companies that are considered a bit less exciting are also needed. The need for houses and roads won’t stop, but we need to find less environmentally harmful ways to get there.